Every few years my mode of music discovery changes. I went from browsing the racks of my local corporate music chain as a teenager, to digging for hours in the back rooms of second hand record shops, to scouring obscure blogs and doing random YouTube searches. This year marked another change in my listening habits as a more social media-oriented, web-mediated exchange with friends and fellow artists from around the world, has taken over my music research routine. 

The Soundcloud platform has taken on a central role in this transformation, as it has become a sort of default platform for the promo and first-exposure distribution of music from both major label and independent artists around the world. Importantly, this has facilitated my access to music scenes in lesser-represented countries, including many African nations which have been historically plagued by a lack of distribution infrastructure, and the presence of middle-(big) man distribution politics. Since any one platform’s monopoly on our mediated exchanges is dangerous, Soundcloud’s taking on this role in the global music production matrix isn’t absent of its crticisms. However, the platform has helped allow music fans to get a more raw, honest, and direct glimpse into individual artists’ creative processes.

I was a late adaptor to Soundcloud, but once the right people started uploading to the platform, it quickly took over as one of my main go-to sources for new music. So, especially for the DJ-inclined readers of Africa is a Country, here is a round up of my 10 favorite Soundclouders in 2012:

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DJ Znobia – DJ Znobia has probably been my favorite producer and remixer for the last five years. I hadn’t heard anything from him for a while when I suddenly noticed him putting up a constant and daily stream of new songs on Soundcloud. The diversity of Angolan producers’ output is impressive. However, it’s Znobia who stands out, as a Lee “Scratch” Perry-esque experimenter, innovator, and genius of the scene.

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Akwaaba Music – Benjamin Lebrave has come into his own as a jack of all trades in the promotion of African music. The label owner, journalist and DJ is constantly traveling to get the low-down of what’s happening at the current moment in various scenes. Beyond his label catalog, his many connections to producers across the continent and his constant liking and re-posts, have made him an all-star Soundclouder to follow.

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Afropop Worldwide – Afropop Radio is archiving all of its past shows on Soundcloud. It is worth spending some time on their page and going through their back catalog, so you can catch up with classics like Siddhartha Mitter’s “Hip Hop Generation in Africa” piece.

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DJ X-Trio – X Trio releases some really nice edits of up to the time pop tunes from around the world. A Deep House influenced production style dubbed “AfroFlava,” should see this Masters of Engineering degree holder personally pushing his sound to global dance floors in no time. Notable remixes that stayed in my DJ crates throughout the year were his versions of the Brazilian pop hit Nossa (Assim Voce Me Mata) and DJ Sbu’s Le Ngoma.

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DJ Sliink – Alongside DJ Znobia, this guy is probably the most prolific remixer, producer, and Soundcloud uploader out there. A constant stream of his own tracks and mixes is accompanied by tracks culled from his peers and contemporaries in North New Jersey. His Soundcloud page is one of the best sources for playable, downloadable dance music around.

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Deejay Kuimba DZC – Portugal is developing a pretty amazing electronic music scene, so it’s hard to choose just one of the many DJs I admire coming out of Lisbon and its surrounding areas. I don’t need to say more about Deejay Kuimba of the DZC DJs other than that he does the above.

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Zuccony – This young Florida based producer’s remixes have been some of my best secret DJ weapons this year. His aggressive sound may not be for everyone, but he’s probably been the producer that has most made people to run up behind me while DJing to train-spot what I’m playing.

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Sonora – Joseph Sonora Longoria, my good friend from San Antonio, is a prolific producer who experiments with everything from Cumbia to Crunk to House. Fans of contemporary African music will really appreciate his Zouk-love approximating “Amor de…” series. He is also the producer who got me back on to Soundcloud after I missed downloading one of his remixes, and vowed to never let it happen again.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/48459620″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Jumping Back Slash –  I wasn’t too familiar with this South African DJ before this year, but his regular mention on OkayAfrica has pointed me to some really nice edits. Looking forward to seeing what else he comes up with in 2013.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/61149994″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Captain Planet – An end of the year discovery in terms of Soundclouding, but Charlie B. Wilder aka DJ Captain Planet had long been one of Brooklyn’s most solid DJs/diggers/remixers alongside the likes of Sabo and Uproot Andy. His now defunct Captain’s Crate blog was an early staple of my MP3 blogging days. Currently living in L.A., he has a slew of really impressive original songs as well as remixes on his Soundcloud page, referencing everything from Afrobeat to Chimurenga to Mayan Tribal Guarachero. Not on his own page, but worth the stream is his Madlib-inspired Mystery Trip Vol. 1 Mixtape.

Further Reading